I am living at the Gold Coast, Australia and I was very happy when PAL started offering direct flights from Manila to Brisbane and back. My mother comes for a visit once or twice a year and I have always used Qantas because they have direct flights from Manila to Brisbane.
With these expectations and with the knowledge that my mother would be talking to Filipino attendants made me not hesitate at all to book her a flight (Booking reference BI6B7W) to Brisbane on 15 September and back to Manila on 9 December 2010, issued 05 Aug 2010. She arrived without any hassles. After exactly one month, I received an e-mail from PAL saying her flight back has been cancelled and a new itinerary will be issued for 10 December 2010, this time, Brisbane to Sydney then Sydney to Manila. Without any explanation as to why this was happening and without any consideration to the change in date, my mother was then given another electronic ticket (which, by the way, did not look as proper and as professional as the first e-ticket issued to her; see below). I took this in stride and arranged for my work schedule to be changed so I can bring her to the airport. But I decided to fly with her to Sydney to ensure she doesn’t get any problems.
I then tried to book another return flight for myself in February 2011. But using the website gave me problems. No matter what date I entered for my flight details, the page kept screaming at me, “No available flights”. I tried several times, thinking, maybe, it was just a technical glitz. Frustrated after a few attempts, I then rang up and was told by a very rude man that there were no direct flights to Manila anymore. I then asked for verification about my mom’s changed flight but was, again, rudely dismissed, saying if I got an e-mail confirming this, then there shouldn’t be any problem. To think I was talking to a fellow Filipino, this made me very irate. But I calmed myself down and thought, maybe, that person was just having a bad day. I then decided to use another airline for my trip back home.
On the day my mother was supposed to leave for Manila, the Qantas ground crew said they couldn’t check her in because she wasn’t given enough time for the transfer from the domestic terminal to the international terminal in Sydney. She was given an hour and Qantas said the minimum allowed for transfers was 1 hr 15 minutes. But in the end they checked us in when I assured them Qantas won’t be held liable. Once my mother’s luggage has been checked in, I then rang up PAL at +632 855 8888 to confirm my mother would get on that flight without any problem. I was put on hold several times, for more than 30 minutes; in fact, I had to hang up because we were already boarding and the man on the phone, Rusty, couldn’t give me an answer. He kept going back to his supervisor who couldn’t be bothered to talk to me on an international call! Talk about customer service!
Qantas has been nothing but helpful to my mother’s predicament. Her luggage was supposed to be checked through to Manila and I was assured that if she gets a boarding pass in Sydney, the computers will alert the ground crew so her luggage will be loaded onto PR 210. We arrived at the Sydney airport on time, but had a bit of traffic in the runway, with 5 aircrafts ahead of us trying to either land or take off. I then rang up PAL again to tell them of the problem in the runway, and the man on the phone started putting the blame on Qantas. This, of course, was not helping at all. Very typical. The man then told me we had enough time because the bus going to the international terminal leaves every 10-20 minutes. What he didn’t tell me was how long the bus trip would take. We arrived at the international terminal 20 minutes before take-off. I was breathless from running and kept telling my mom not to run because she fractured her left shoulder 6 weeks ago from a fall and I didn’t want her falling over again. Fortunately, and this was the first good thing that PAL has done, someone was looking out for us and she breezed through check-in, customs and she finally got on the plane. However, with 20 minutes to spare before take-off, the ground crew decided not to put her luggage in the said flight. Understandably, because the gate closes 30 minutes before take-off, not 20. It was expected that my mother wouldn’t get on that flight. In the end, she arrived in Manila, without her luggage. It arrived 2 days later. Well and good.
Needless to say, I, and my family, will not be using PAL again. Your nice NAIA 2 terminal is not going to make up for the rudeness of your customer service crew, for the inefficiency of your staff, and for the grievances you make us go through. Professionalism and efficiency are traits that we often see in other countries and it grieves me to think how some Filipinos do not seem to be able to manifest these. I will be happy using the old international terminals without the flashy facilities of NAIA 2 if I can get a professional customer service, anytime.